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An Open Letter to The Woman in the Next Aisle of Target

baby in targetTo the mother in the Target aisle next to me,

I owe you an apology. I live in my own head 99% of the time, especially when running errands without my baby in tow — or what I like to call, “free time.” How quickly I forget what it’s like to dig into your exploding diaper bag for your wallet while your fussy, teething baby is screaming for her sippy cup and your husband is out of town on business and you’re thinking about which last-minute ingredients you need to make pasta for your sister who’s recovering from a recent surgery.

I forgot that pressure yesterday, but I know you didn’t. I know you had everything on your mind, all at once, and when you couldn’t find your wallet and the man behind you started rolling his eyes, I didn’t intervene. No one did. You were alone and flustered and gosh, the screaming baby. I’m so sorry, friend.

I’ve been there, truly, and I would have given the world to have someone make eye contact with me. Anyone. Someone with a knowing smile and a wink and the fresh perspective that in five minutes, the screaming will be over and you’ll be driving in your car, headed to a warm home with a cozy bed and food (leftovers, likely) in the fridge.

I’m so sorry I didn’t give you that.

My gut said that I should step out of line to help. To maybe entertain the baby or find the sippy cup or maybe your wallet or just… do something. But I didn’t. Because what if you thought I was judging you? What if a helping hand from a total stranger made you feel like you couldn’t handle this, or that you couldn’t get through it on your own?

But friend, that is crazy. None of us can handle this. None of us can get through it alone, whether we have screaming babies or aging parents or failing relationships or no real problems except the ones that live in our minds. I know this in my heart, and yesterday, I needed you to know it in yours.

I’m sorry I failed you. I’m sorry I shifted my weight, focusing awkwardly on my own aisle and staring into space, pretending that no one noticed the scene around us. I’m sorry, from all of us — the man behind you, the checkout girl and me – the mom one aisle over who knows better.

Tonight, when you recount the day’s events, I hope this memory doesn’t stand out. I hope it’s shadowed by many better ones, from people better than myself.

I’m sorry. (And by the way, you have excellent taste in pasta sauce.)

Love,
The Woman One Aisle Over

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